Social media has become a game changer for businesses worldwide as it's being used to promote products and services, make announcements, and interact with customers. In recent years, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Reddit have helped to humanize companies and enabled them to connect with their target audience. Unfortunately, the attention received on these sites is not always positive. According to a US survey conducted by Statista, 38% of respondents saw trolls on social media platforms daily. Trolls post inflammatory statements and enjoy disparaging businesses with their vitriol. For this reason, companies need to take steps to protect their brand from social media trolls.
Most businesses, especially small businesses, rely on positive word of mouth. An internet troll seeks to destroy a company's reputation. By creating fake news stories and magnifying tiny communication errors, trolls can influence a company's narrative. These spiteful individuals can weaken a company's brand and cause financial losses.
Take for instance the case of Sara Christensen. In 2019, the entrepreneur lost her business and home because she posted a cropped picture of a job applicant in a bikini on Instagram. She intended to show what information employers can find when investigating a prospective applicant on social media. Fifty-seven people saw the post before the removal of the picture. However, the applicant, Emily Clow, made a comment on Twitter saying that she was objectified by Christensen's company. The picture was removed from Christensen's Instagram, but Clow's complaint went viral, and Christensen and her clients started receiving death threats. Moreover, her podcasts received a lot of negative reviews, and her clients were warned not to do business with her anymore. Her home address was also released online, and she started getting letters from trolls telling her, in explicit detail, of what harm they intend to cause her. Soon after that, the entrepreneur chose to shutter her business for good, and she still lives in hiding to this day.
Meanwhile in Ontario, the website SafeTO-DO closed after just a week. Online anti-vaxxer trolls targeted the pro-vax businesses listed on their site. They flooded the listed companies with nasty comments, negative Google reviews, and fake bookings.
Trolls can be infuriating. Take a moment before responding to these individuals. It might feel liberating to lash out at the trolls (especially if this is not their first attack), but it is necessary to rise above their games. Responding emotionally to comments will provide the fuel the troll needs to tarnish the company's reputation. Keep communication respectful and polite even if they do not. When in doubt, always take the high road.
Responding to negative comments can be challenging, but simple issues can be dealt with quickly before they have a chance to blow up. YouTuber Jeffree Star is one entrepreneur who chose to deal with a difficult situation head on. The entrepreneur, who founded Jeffree Star Cosmetics disarmed trolls by being truthful about a quality control problem and providing customers with replacement products. Being attentive to customer concerns creates a positive buzz and earns loyal customers.
Hiring someone to monitor the businesses' incoming posts can foster a positive community. Moderating comments ensures any inappropriate or concerning messages do not get posted. The Library of Congress has a robust policy on posting that reflects the community contact they support. With clearly defined parameters, customers are better able to understand expectations set by the business. An SEO agency can help with any site changes required and ensure you get quality traffic.
Most people think that having more followers will result in more sales, but this isn't the case at all. Followers who engage with a brand in constructive and meaningful ways can result in having more customers and potential sales. Meanwhile, followers who provide content that is disrespectful and highly polarizing can cause chaos and create a negative impact on your business. Be selective, get rid of toxic individuals, and support people who add value to the online community.
Trolls want a reaction from their comments, but they do not necessarily like playing the long game. In other words, most trolls will not sign up for paid membership just to spread discord. Setting up members-only pages will limit the disruption of trolls. Alternatively, businesses can create secluded communities by requiring users to be verified or registered. Trolls are less likely to cause trouble if they cannot stand behind a veil of anonymity.
Social media trolls will always exist. Any online business needs to prepare itself for these agents of chaos by focusing on de-escalation tactics. Creating member-only communities with clear guidelines helps route out trolls and creates a more peaceful online environment for your business.